Fine Dining Hacks This Editor Swears By to Save Money and Enhance the Experience

To say I love food would be the understatement of my life. I’m a person who lives to eat, to try new foods, to explore different cuisines — and I’ll travel far and wide to do exactly that.

When I sit down to eat, I’m not just thinking of the meal in front of me but the one that will follow. Sometimes I will have mapped out four meals ahead in my mind, and when I’m travelling, I’ve been known to keep spreadsheets and interactive Google Maps of the restaurants I’ll visit, with notes on exactly what to order from menus I’ve already memorised. So yeah, I like food.

Dining in my hometown of Sydney is no different, although my approach is probably a little more casual. More flexible. Though I love to try new casual restaurants, cafes and bars as they crop up, I’m almost never without a booking for a fine-dining experience to mark special occasions in my life. It’s my own little way of always having something to look forward to.

In visiting a handful of Sydney’s and the world’s very best restaurants, I’ve learned how to get more out of a meal, to ensure I’ve sampled as much from the menu as I possibly can in my sitting.

Now, I’m sharing my top three tips with you.

Go for a half-pairing

I love a wine pairing, but I’ve left more than one dinner feeling so buzzed that the last three courses end up a blur. It’s a fun time, but for those dearer dining experiences, I kind of want to remember what I ate… and paid for.

I never want to miss out on a wine pairing since it undoubtedly enhances the dining experience, which is why I’ve taken to asking for a half-pairing. A half-pairing means you’re able to sample the same wines in the pairing, only at a smaller size and for half the price.

It’s not something all restaurants will pop on their menus, which is why it always pays to ask nicely if it’s something the waitstaff will do for you.

Make friends with your sommelier

If you’re opting out of the wine pairing, don’t just point to the wine menu and pick anything. Wine is an important complement to a degustation and the notes of your vino can and will affect the taste of the menu in front of you, and not always in a good way.

Best to ask the restaurant’s sommelier, who on a busy night will more than likely be in the restaurant, to assess the menu you’ve chosen and help choose the perfect wines that will match to your tastes, as well as the dishes in front of you. Make friends with your somm!

Ask for a half serve

This is a particularly useful hack for solo diners, who in dining by themselves, may be challenged by stomach space, but still want to try as much as they can from the menu.

Truly, nothing changed my dining out life more than the realisation that I could ask for a half-serve of a dish, and this is especially applicable to the sides on a menu. Want to try the duck fat potatoes but don’t want to spend $22 on more spuds than you can eat? Ask for a half serve! While not all restaurants will oblige, some will be willing to give you half the serving amount at half the menu cost. Genius.

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